Traveling Successfully with Autism

The first time I was asked by a reader how to start traveling, I thought she was pulling my leg. However, I soon discovered that many families with autism had no idea what to do and how to get the process going. Since summer is almost here, I’m sharing some of my tips with you in the hope you actually will be inspired to become more adventurous.

Traveling Successfully with Autism atlantis chair Start small, dream big

Buy a yearly membership to your local zoo, aquarium or hands on museum and start going at least once a month. Prepare your child by showing him or her social stories, pictures and videos ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged if the first few times’ things don’t go as planned, just continue going until you’ve covered most of the exhibits. Your child is bound to learn something from the exposure even though they might not interpret it the way you envisioned it.

A friend of mine kept taking her son to the local aquarium and got pretty frustrated when all he wanted was to ride the escalator. I advised her to persevere as eventually he will be curious to see something other than his favorite area. A few weeks ago she called me up and told me they reached a compromise. Now they ride the escalator for ten minutes before they head on and check out the other exhibits, and she added proudly, she’s considering taking him to his first museum this summer!

 Share your love

Expose your child to the things and places you feel passionate about and love best A neighbor of mine loved 60’s bands, so naturally that was the music she regularly listened to in her car when she drove around with her baby completing her daily errands. By the time the time he was a toddler, her speech delayed son with autism, had mastered all the song names the singers and even some of the lyrics.
As time went by, she started attending free public concerts with him, and later took him to some of the bands’ concerts in local venues. The boy now in his teen years still uses 60’s and 70’s lyrics to express his feelings. This story shows she not only got to share her passion but bonded with her son over something they now both enjoy.

 If it takes a village, get the villagers to join you


Sadly, many families feel uncomfortable about taking their special need kids on outings due to people’s stares and insensitive comments. My opinion is that parents should focus on their child’s need to experience his world rather than be affected by society’s disapproval. Hence, if you feel you can’t face the crowds on your own, ask interested family members or friends to accompany you on your venture.
Another possibility is to join outings organized by religious or support groups where you are bound to experience tolerance and wider acceptance of your child.

Mix in some life skills

As I remind my readers, travel does not necessarily mean transatlantic or transpacific fancy explorations. In fact, for someTraveling Successfully with Autism atomium autistics, it might only mean a daily tour of the neighboring town or village. I encourage parents to take a day off and ride the public transportation with their kids in their immediate area. By doing so, they can teach or reiterate some important safety and life skills such as crossing the street, reading transportation maps and signs, paying the fare and checking change among others.
When and if you do get bored, you can easily diversify by taking the bus in an opposite direction or by getting off at different stops to explore the local stores or restaurants.

Indulge  your senses

One of the cheapest but most satisfying ways to travel is to venture into your city’s ethnic neighborhoods. Start the day by visiting the different stores with their unique merchandise and go inside for a closer look.

My son’s favorite in the LA area is the city of Artesia, where he can enter the Indian shops and listen to Sitar (Indian guitar) music. When he is hungry, he usually wanders into a restaurant that smells good and orders some of their delicious dishes.The best idea is to order multiple small portion dishes for everyone to sample so all family members can choose their favorite. We used to play a family game in which we would vote and select a winner dish. The prize was taking an extra order home for everyone to enjoy.

Reward with souvenirs

Make sure to bring something back from the trip that will provide a constant reminder of much fun everyone had. Over the years, we rewarded our son’s good behavior by letting him choose souvenirs from the different places he visited. He claims that they help him relive all the great times he’s experienced.
The trick here is to teach your kid with autism to choose an object from each place that is meaningful but not necessarily expensive or factory made. Over the years, we’ve brought home seashells, rocks, feathers, napkins, t-shirts, snow globes, miniature clocks and multiple stuffed animals. Make sure you create a travel corner in your home, preferably in your child’s room and display each and every one of the collected items.

 

Have you started traveling with your special needs child?
Come share your stories and experiences.

 

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Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism

Over the past few weeks, some parents to kids with autism, have approached us with questions to help plan their holiday travel.
Although special-needs travel tends to be multi-faceted and somewhat individualized in nature, we’ve learned some things over the years that we hope can help others travel smarter and have a better vacation.For those readers, as well as others, here are our top ten tips for traveling with autism.

Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism st Barbara

#1- Call ahead and flag your reservation

Call the airline’s customer service, the cruise line’s special needs department, the hotel concierge or front desk, and of course and tour guides to explain your situation.
Ask for needed accommodations, such as preferred seating (bulkhead or aisle), individualized lodging (quiet and adjoining rooms) and specific dietary requests (i.e. food allergies.) In this way, you’re not only helping the companies serve you better but also informing them of the disability that might become misinterpreted in certain situations—temper tantrums at an airport checkpoint or during a flight that can be misconstrued as threatening or violent behavior.
After touching base with any customer service reps, make a note of their names, and ask for a follow-up e-mail or fax confirming the agreed-upon details. Then, keep in touch at least 2-3 times before the planned travel starts!
*Remember that assigned plane seats and hotel adjoining rooms can change without any notices, so check your reservation online weekly and pay attention to any unwanted alterations.

#2- Don’t plan the itinerary from Hell!

Some of the overly enthusiastic travelers have the belief that they should spend their limited time exploring each destination to the fullest and plan an exhausting itinerary. Autistic travelers can feel sensory overloaded, tired, and out of sorts if made to follow rigorous plans, especially if accustomed to their more sedentary everyday life.
As a rule of thumb: Never plan any sightseeing on actual travel days since the time spent on the airplane, train, ship, or car provides enough excitement.
Try to plan tours or activities that are four hours long or less and include “fun” or downtime intervals for the entire group during midday and evening. Be flexible if and when activities don’t work out as planned. Travel is about experiencing a place as a whole, so sampling the local dinner in a neighborhood restaurant or watching foreign cartoons in the hotel room qualify as ‘exploring’ too.

Remember that if you enjoy a place, you can always go back and revisit. It feels more familiar and welcoming the second time around.

Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism plane seats

#3- Prepare your travelers and double check your arrangements

To pique the interest of your young traveler with autism, you should try to talk about the vacation and different locations in detail using picture books, articles, postcards, and movies. Doing so will not only help alleviate any fears or anxieties the person may have about the trip, but can create genuine interest in the history, geography, and culture of the intended travel destination.
It is equally helpful to go over the travel arrangements with a family member or friend to make sure there is no detail you have overlooked in the initial planning stage. Frequent mistakes are: booking the incorrect hotel arrival dates when traveling transatlantic or transpacific, as well as not allocating enough time in between flight connections.
Last year, my husband discovered that I had mistakenly booked our Australian hotel a day too late, as I had overlooked the date differences—better known as that pesky International Dateline—between leaving Los Angeles and arriving in Melbourne. By having him go over the travel details, we discovered the mistake and corrected it in plenty of time, avoiding the outcome of arriving tired after a long flight with no place to stay.

#4 Begin packing sooner rather than later

While packing is the last stage of planning a trip, it should never be underestimated.
You need time to check that all the supplies, including comfortable clothes and favored bedding, and make sure they are all there since their absence might cause a meltdown for your autistic traveler.
Early packing will provide you with plenty of time to order and purchase any items or supplies you may be missing, and to pack little doodads (e.g. stuffed animals and pictures) your autistic person is attached to.
Instead of packing a separate suitcase for each family member;  put several outfits for each family member in every checked bag. This way, even if one piece of luggage is lost, everyone still has something to wear, and you won’t spend your vacation shopping for necessities instead of sightseeing.
The best time to start packing is a week in advance (you can use our packing list) and never leave it to the night before; as it will render you irritable and exhausted, which in turn is bound to stress everyone–especially your autistic traveler!
Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism bags

#5 Arrive early and  ask for pre-board 

Arrive at the airport, port, train, or bus station early and ask to board among the first.
Pre-boarding will give you ample time to familiarize your autistic traveler with their seats and immediate environment. Furthermore, that extra time can be used to wipe the seat clean, hand each family member toys or food, and even use the restroom.

#6 Expect the unexpected, always!

Note: Before booking your planned trip, verify whether your monetary deposits are refundable. If they are not, consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if you can’t bear the financial loss from a possible cancelation.
In today’s world, where airlines and hotels charge you a hefty re-booking fee and a full refund from cruise lines and organized tours can be close to impossible, insurance can be a helpful tool in the event of cancelations well as covering your meals and hotel in case of severe delays.
Our pet peeve is the chance of delayed or lost luggage which, unfortunately, has increased in frequency over the last few years, especially on US domestic flights. Although not preventable in nature, you can ameliorate the situation by having insurance, which can cover some of the loss, as well as by packing your hand luggage adequately.
Every family or group member should carry one hand luggage with at least two days’ worth of personal clothing, electronics, and medicines. All the autistic person’s preferred clothing, medicines, and toys should be packed in the hand luggage.

Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism passports

#7 What to carry with you at all times: M.E.D, mini-kits, and a recent photo

The worst accidents and mishaps tend to occur during vacations! As such, the wisest thing to do is to be prepared.
Create an emergency mini-kit and always have it with you, preferably in your bag or fanny pack.
It should always include:

• First Aid items such as Neosporin, Band-Aids, or Benadryl cream or spray.

• Bug and solar protection—the higher SPF, the better—just make sure it is hypoallergenic.

• Kid’s medications with a collapsible cup to drink water.

•  Over the counter Painkillers and Diarrhea pills, with an extra pair of kid’s underwear

• At least one extra pair of glasses per any glasses wearing member ( there’s nothing worse than trying to visit a museum or amusement park half ‘blind’).

Mini sized supply of Wet Wipes, tissues, toilet paper roll, and Lysol spray to sterilize the toilet seat (for those who can’t stand or squat in public toilets.)

• A recent picture of your autistic child in case your child wanders away or gets lost, as many times the image in the passport is outdated!

My tip: snap a picture of your kid with your camera daily during the trip you can describe every single detail (including the clothing) to authorities if necessary.

•Medicines for the duration of your vacation plus an extra a week supply in your hand luggage (never in checked luggage or in the car’s trunk, as it can spoil).

• Carry an identification card from a national autism organization identifying your traveler as a member. Also, you can carry a small printed handout card explaining the signs of autism to help raise awareness and educate others and explain certain situations that may arise.

Documentation: You should carry copies of doctor’s, psychologist’s, or psychiatrist’s letters describing your autistic person’s unusual behaviors, conditions, or allergies, as well as copies of letters from police or child services detailing acts of violent meltdowns, so you can show them to the authorities if needed. Some parents have found it useful to put their child’s info on a flash drive or download a medical application like Biomed.

#8 Souvenirs as perks

Souvenirs are a wonderful way not only to encourage good behavior during travel but to get your child interested in history, geography, culture, and art appreciation. Over the years, our son has learned spelling and maps from tee-shirts, geography from coin collecting, and history from the various postcards and stamps.
Encouraging the collection of items can benefit your autistic person in other ways like promoting a sense of ownership and providing conversation starters to help with socialization.
Many travelers don’t realize that souvenirs (loosely translated as remembrances or memories) do not necessarily need to be store-bought or factory-made but any object that comes from those visited locations. In fact, some of the more interesting souvenirs that we’ve come across over the years have been collections of seashells, rocks, hotel keys, transportation tickets, restaurant napkins, and even several department store bags.

Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Autism peasant museum

#9 Don’t neglect siblings and significant others

Many parents become so focused on the needs of their autistic kids that they sometimes forget the needs of their typical children. From the very early stages of planning be sure to ask for their input: where they would like to go, and what they would want to see, and incorporate that into your travel plans.
In fact, on every vacation day, there should, at least, one individual activity for each kid to enjoy per day.
General rules to abide by:
Don’t assume they like anything, especially if they are teens so never sign them up for any activities unless you get their approval first!
Since family life so strongly revolves around the autistic person, there is almost no space left for that “significant” other! Vacation time is the perfect time to spend some “us” time too.
Whether you choose babysitting services or the goodwill of family members, try to dedicate at least one evening per week vacation for you and your significant to engage in an activity or go to a place you both like, to rekindle your relationship and reconnect with each other.

#10 Give yourself the proper sendoff

Start your vacation a day earlier than everyone else!
After acting as your family vacation planner, personal shopper, and professional packer you deserve your space and time. Spend the day before your intended vacation with much needed “me” time:  see a movie, get a facial, walk around the mall eyeing the latest fashions—anything that will relax you and put you in a great mood. Go to sleep at your regular time or earlier; after all, tomorrow your adventure is about to unfold.

What are your special tips to help with autism travel?
We would love to hear from you!

How to Spend your Next ‘Stay-cation’

Last month, someone posted a comment on my blog criticizing me for encouraging readers to ‘travel’ during the current difficult economic times.
I realized that she like many other people regarded ‘travel’ like an expensive affair that involved long haul flights, distant locations, and extended hotel stays.
Although that might be the definition of some, there other ways you can ‘travel’ closer to home quite inexpensively, and still have a good time.
In fact, the way I see it, there are many advantages to having ‘stay-cations’: like reduced planning, minimal packing (day bag) and a more affordable price tag. Moreover, they enable you to achieve the benefits of exposing your child to new experiences at a slower, more manageable pace.

Planning stage

You should research local newspapers, magazines, and the internet for places within a fifty-mile radius that you know will hold your child’s attention for at least an hour or two.
Next, check the place’s operating hours if there is the possibility of booking ahead and whether any accommodations for persons with special needs can be arranged.
Be sure to allocate extra arrival and departure time in your plan for unforeseen meltdowns or mishaps.
Prepare a day bag that includes a first aid kit, insect repellent, sun protection gear, snack, and the extra set of clothes.
Remember to take a regular camera and video camera to record your trip memories. Pictures and videos not only make for inexpensive memorable souvenirs but serve as an educational reminder for your kid’s adventures.
If your child is six or older, you might want to consider teaching them how to take pictures that can later be shared with classmates.
Pick up as many colorful brochures and maps as you can prior and during your visit to your chosen destination as they can be tools to start a collection or to create a scrapbook with your child.

Where to go and what to do

 

Art Appreciation

Take a few neighbor parents and kids to go to a local art museum.
Nowadays, Many places have hands on sections in which young patrons can experiment making their Art or even try on period costumes like the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Then, have a BBQ/Art block party with the kids painting or sculpting and  later exhibiting their masterpieces for the entire neighborhood.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' romania violin

Animal Lovers

Consider buying a yearly pass to local aquarium/zoo as that will not only support a good cause but allow you multiple free visits and access to special events that are not always shared with the public.
Unknown to many, some yearly Zoo and Aquarium memberships offer reciprocity and can be used in other cities too, which is an extra bonus.
When they were younger, my kids loved watching the feeding time at the local zoo followed by our picnic in the nearby park.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' sydney zoo        

 History Buffs

Visit a local historic home or cemetery and learn about its unique story.
Most places have retired people that volunteer as docents who are thrilled to share their stories with any visitors.
Around Halloween time many places share stories of ghost sighting and other paranormal activities with the public that you can visit with your family.

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' brasov

Food appreciation

Walk around an ethnic neighborhood exploring the miscellaneous goods and foods, followed by a lunch stop at a local restaurant.
If you are not acquainted with the items on the menu, ask the server for personal recommendations or proceed to order several appetizers to share.
Some ‘mom and pop’ places might even agree to give you the grand tour of the kitchen if you ask to politely so you can learn how they prepare the food.
One of our all-time favorite Sunday pass times is to go and have Dim-Sum in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, where the kids order items from the servers with their traditional rolling carts.

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' chinese food

Water Activities

Make good use of your nearby beaches, lakes or pools; you might need to join the YMCA or pay a small set fee to enter, but then you can spend as long as you wish and practice your swim moves.
Some beach areas will even permit camping for the night so you can get to witness a sunrise or sunset.
If your child is both a thrill seeker and water lover, you might want to consider getting a season’s pass to the local water park since multiple visits are bound to cost more.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' water park

             

Treasure Hunting

The new Geocaching while hiking in the mountains is so much better than our childhood version of searching grandma’s dusty attic.
Talk about multi-tasking; you get to hike the great outdoors, teach your kid basic navigation skills and find a treasure before returning home for dinner.
Those less physically active can still participate by going to alternate places with a friendlier terrain; just remember to bring your GPS instrument along to help you find the hidden treasures..

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' statue

Transportation Connoisseurs

Have a transportation adventure day; ride that metro line you’ve been curious about, or climb aboard that ferry boat you’ve been watching in the harbor.

Pretend to be a tourist for a day and hop on a bus that drives around the main attractions or travels to a nearby town.
Nowadays, with many kids raised in suburban areas, riding the city bus might seem exotic to some. I still remember the first time my kids took their first bus ride and were utterly surprised to find out that unlike private vehicles, there were no seat belts.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' apple farm cart

 

Local Celebrations

Visit a fair or festival and participate in every possible activity, no matter how childish and embarrassing it sounds.
Some County Fairs are so elaborate you might find out that need more than just one day to explore all the booths and activities.
If you and your family are food lovers; bear in mind that fairs are the place to find the newest and strangest ones-anyone care for a serving of deep fried coke?

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' minneapolis fair

 

 How do they do that?

Take a backstage tour in an area factory or media provider building such as a TV station, radio or local newspaper.
Many businesses encourage the locals to visit their facilities’ by providing free guided tours or holding ‘Open House’ events.
For travel theme tour visits a nearby famous hotel or airport and watch the planes taking off or landing.
To this day, my kids remember visiting the Jelly Belly in Fairfield, Northern California and sampling their colorful products.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' chinese crafts

 

Old fashioned theme parks

Find local old fashioned ‘Luna Parks’ and theme parks that offer milder nature rides than today’s stomach-churning variety, plenty of vintage charm and tend to be cheaper.
Some charge an entrance with a separate fee for each ride while others sell a discounted ticket for a set number of rides.
Many places still feature wooden carousels that are a marvel to examine and photograph, especially with giggling little kids riding.
Best of all, even, in the worst-case, scenario the crowds are bound to be smaller than in their newer fancier counterparts.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' state fair ride

Lastly, Be flexible and don’t despair if the day does not go as planned, it seldom does.

Ten Cultural Differences My Kid Learned from Traveling

One of the fascinating aspects of having visited as many countries as our son with autism has, is the opportunity to form his unique perspective of how the world differs from his suburban Los Angeles enclave. In fact just last week, he compiled his top ten cultural differences he learned from traveling.

#1 Is THAT a toilet?

Parents, both current and expectant should remember that the shape and even the function of toilets worldwide vary, considerably!
In Turkey—and many Arab nations—toilets (especially in poorer areas) are frequently replaced by a hole in the floor. Meanwhile, in Japan, the modernized public stalls are equipped with electronic water jets and heated seats while the traditional ones are facing the ‘opposite’ way compared to the European ones.
Ten Cultural Differences My Kid With Autism Learned from Traveling toilet


#2 Pay-per-use

 

While American stores and restaurants let most patrons use their facilities free of charge, in Europe, these same utilities often come with a price tag.
My son was puzzled when confronted with the cleaner’s tip jar and the dirty looks he got after he didn’t comply.When traveling, especially from the States, remember to keep a few quarters handy for the unexpected bathroom rendezvous.

 

#3 Why is there a water fountain in the bathroom?

While bidets are a staple in many European bathrooms, my son mistook it a “water fountain” and was excited to discover it in our hotel bathroom.Luckily, he didn’t get to try it out!

 

Ten Cultural Differences My Kid With Autism Learned from Traveling bidet

#4 Siesta Time?

American-born and raised, my son had grown accustomed to stores and restaurants staying open most of the day even on weekends.maintaini. So, imagine his surprise to see whole cities shut down for a few hours—in the middle of the day, no less—from restaurants to entire malls for siesta time.

#5 Food, best served cold

Living in the USA—where macaroni and cheese are just a microwave away—restaurants are seldom closed, and restrictions (past those about health) are rarely imposed. As such, my son with autism was in for a shock when he visited Israel; unlike in America, the Israeli “Shabbat” laws (not laws per se, but the Orthodox majority imposing their beliefs) prohibit the cooking of food from Friday to Saturday night in hotel restaurants. Not to say that he went hungry-he managed,  to get by, replacing his usual morning omelet with a plentiful array of cold and pre-prepared warmed up items.

Ten Cultural Differences My Kid With Autism Learned from Traveling buffet

#6 Lunchtime Siren Call

One of the most bizarre encounters on our travels involved our visit to the Central American country of Nicaragua on a cruise. While waiting in a town square café and sipping soda, we flinched at the sound of an air-raid siren blaring through the streets, horrified at the thought that war was upon us. When we asked what had happened, we were baffled to hear from the guide that the siren was used to alert the locals it was time for lunch!

#7 Where’s my bread and butter?

Like many other restaurant-goers, my son is an avid bread eater, especially when it is freshly-baked or a specialty. While most diners in the United States serve complimentary bread and butter, many establishments in Europe supply bread by request only and charge an extra fee for it.

 

Ten Cultural Differences My Kid With Autism Learned from Traveling kids in Mx

#8 Pushy salespeople

Frequently on travels, my family and I  have encountered aggressive merchants of all ages, using any method imaginable to convince you to buy their trinkets, including having toddlers as salespeople. My kids sometimes felt guilty or, at least, uncomfortable when faced with such tactics, ending up buying some unwanted souvenirs.

#9 Wait, no air conditioning?

While air conditioning is ubiquitous in our home country, the United States, many countries—even European—lack any acclimatization room system. In many countries, older hotels may require even a central cooling system; in others, there may be strict restrictions as to what time of year and to what extent they utilize their air conditioning (and for the winter, heating).

 

Ten Cultural Differences My Kid With Autism Learned from Traveling crosswalk

#10 How do you cross the street?

Unlike the States, several countries drive on the left side of the road so, or son had to practice looking to the right when he crossed.But that didn’t quite prepare him for what we were faced with in Tokyo.In the Shinjuku area the main thoroughfare, there were several intersecting crossroads with people crossing simultaneously in different directions -a situation that we all found extremely confusing.
 Post updated October 18, 2015

 

 

 

Six Things to Check before Planning your Next Vacation

Most of us love to dream of exotic destinations and plan our next ‘big’ getaway when in reality we should be making sure we are adequately prepared for unforeseen events. So, before booking that next cruise or theme park visit here are the six essential things you need to check off your list as soon as possible.

 

The Six Things to check before planning your next vacation beach chairs

Make sure your family members are well enough to travel

Go ahead and schedule that yearly check-up for you and all members of your family so you can get those clean bills of health.
Make sure everyone’s vaccines are up-to-date, as some countries will not allow you entry without proper immunization forms.
Have everyone visits the dentist, to avoid the development of an abscess or other preventable dental emergencies during travel.
Call your health insurance provider and verify the coverage you can expect domestically and internationally.
If you or any member of your family are taking daily medicines, ask your  family physician to prescribe an extra month’s supply of the prescribed medications to take with you (in case you run out for any reason.)

Read your electronics’  manuals 

Many of us purchase new electronic gear but don’t bother to read the manuals.
If you don’t know the functions of your newly acquired gadgets chances are you won’t know how to use them during your trip, so there’s no time like the present to learn  and practice  using everything
If you are planning to use an e-reader on the trip, remember to pre-load books you plan on reading ahead of time, as Wi-Fi and 4G signals might be unreliable in the places you visit.

Ensure your coverage is up to date

Consider purchasing renter’s or home insurance to make sure your home and belongings are covered while you are away.
Now might be an opportune time to not only make a detailed list of furniture, electronics, and personal belongings but take pictures or videos to show the insurance in case of theft or other unforeseen damages.
If your home is equipped with an alarm system, call the company and make sure you update your emergency contact information.

 

Check your travel gear

Since waistlines change and children grow, check everyone’s travel apparel for size, rips or tears, in case you need to buy a substitute.
Purchase seasonal related items you’ll need like ski gear or swimsuits at the end of the season and store them for future trips.

 

Review your existing cell phone plan

The best way to ensure you don’t accrue unexpected phone charges while away is to contact your mobile carrier and check ahead of time.
If our carrier does not offer a reasonably priced plan, look into switching carrier or purchasing phone cards.

 

The right credit card can take you places-literally

Look into what reward deals—miles, points, or cash back your credit card is offering and how it measures up against the competition.
If you are thinking of traveling internationally,  look for a credit card that charges the least cash advances, ATM withdrawal, and foreign transactions.

 

  What are your tips to check before planning your vacation?
Share them with us.

Unraveling the Secrets of a Well Packed Handbag

  Unraveling the Secrets of a Well Packed Handbag suitcase

As a young traveler, I thought that lugging that incredibly cumbersome and expensive designer half open bag around the airport made me look sexy until I got pick pocketed, that is.

Then came that period in my life when I somehow developed extra limbs to carry the overloaded diaper bag, baby one, toddler two and stroller, as well as what resembled the tower of Babel as my personal handbag through airports. Luckily, those were pre -9/11 days when everyone was sympathetic, and no one cared what your bags held.

Nowadays, I still log around items I need for myself and my family.The only difference is I picked up some smart tips over the years to help me cut on the quantity of items I pack and keep it to a bare minimum. By sharing my tips here, I’m hoping that you too will enjoy a well-packed handbag.

 

Buying the right bag

Size matters
Find out what the flight company allows for a personal item and buy the sturdiest and non-structured bag you can find like   LeSportsac or Longchamp.
Buy the largest you can so you can fill it to the brim especially when traveling with kids.

Zippers and pockets
Make sure that the bag closes on top with a double zipper, in case one side fails, and that it zips from one end to the other completely.
That will protect you from pickpockets, things falling out from the open sides and bed bugs.
Extra zippered outside pockets were useful to throw in last minute items like boarding passes, headphones, receipts, and hand wipes.

Look for Fabric Bags
The best travel bag by far is the one you can throw in your washer when you return from the trip, and lighter the fabric the better since t some airlines that have a set limit on handbag weight.
True, that does limit the field to a few companies and might make you look less glamorous at the counter, but the benefits do outweigh the drawbacks.

Colorful holders for your ‘stuff.’

Carefully organized and packed items can make your life a lot easier, especially when you are trying to find an item fast in a semi-darkened airplane cabin.
You should have a differently colored bag for each category.
Write your family name on each bag so if the bag is misplaced or lost during the flight, the airline can return it to you.

Carrying the right ‘Stuff.’

 

The trick is to have everything in small quantities, so you can access it when needed.So, buy travel sized makeup, meds, and even duck tape.

Electronics
cameras, videos, e-readers, iPad, chargers, memory cards, personal headphones

Medicines
mini first aid kit, a piece of moleskin,  Advil, Immodium, Benadryl, Visine,

Cosmetics
Cologne/perfume, brush, makeup, lip balm, single use toothbrushes (wisp), dental floss, deodorant

General aids
Mini Lysol sprays for funky looking toilet seats, a small hand cream container, contact lenses and or glasses.

Duct tape and a flashlight
Duct tape to patch anything torn/broken and a  flashlight to look for lost items under seats.

Beach Coverall
Made of thin rayon, it can creatively serve multiple purposes during travel, including clean flight blanket, seat cover, kid bib or even an emergency diaper, in addition to its original use.

Fan
In today’s travel world sooner or later you will get stuck on a plane with poor or no ventilation. A mini battery operated fan can quickly and efficiently help to cool you off.

Extra pair of glasses
If you still own a single pair of vision glasses. Get an extra pair, pronto!There’s nothing more annoying than looking for a place to fix your glasses in a strange city when you are pressed for time and trying to cram in as much sightseeing time as you can.

Gum
Chewing gum is a good item to have if you are sensitive to pressure during landing and can help quench hunger.

 

Is your bag organized when you travel?
If
so, share your organizing secrets with us.

 


The Holiday Travel With Autism Survival Guide

 The winter holidays according to most popular songs and stories are meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, yet many families with autistic kids dread their yearly arrival.
Some families opt to stay home and celebrate away from their loved ones just to avoid the hassles of traveling with autistic children.The ones who do travel, return home more frustrated than before their so-called holiday vacation.

Having been approached and asked multiple times about the topic, I’ve decided to share my holiday travel with autism survival guide with you, but do bear in mind that since people and circumstances vary not all ideas may not work as well in your household as they do in ours.

The Holiday Travel with Autism Survival Guide

 

Plan your Holiday Travel Early

Even if you’re the world’s greatest procrastinator, you must plan ahead if you have a child with autism.
Decide where you will be spending your holidays as early in the year as possible, as that will help you organize all the details you need ahead of time.

Choose the quickest method of transportation from your home to wherever you need to be, avoid traveling the day before, the day of, and the day after any holiday when airports, bus /rail stations, and roads get busy with crazed last minute travelers.

Look into booking a hotel room and pass on staying with family or friends, as many autistic kids find crowded homes overwhelming.Along with providing your family with more space to spread belongings and the ability to wake up at your pace hotels are more are convenient when you need extra towels, bedding or that unexpected mattress change after a ‘night accident’.

Consider renting a car, especially if you are in traveling to a suburban area to enhance your independence to come and leave as needed.

Start packing a week ahead

Start packing the weekend before your trip and ask all your family members to help by packing their belongings in colored coded Ziploc bags. The best part about beginning to pack early is that you notice and have time to purchase any items you need for travel.
The color-coded method is efficient since not only eliminates the guess work of whose t-shirts or socks are in each bag but helps promote the independent dressing process every morning.Best of all, it also simplifies doing the laundry when you return home since everyone can wash their items separately.

 

Prepare your autistic kid with stories and pictures

Use the weekend to prepare your child with autism by sharing holiday stories, traditions and keepsake pictures of past holiday gatherings.
By adding quirky descriptions of people, items and foods you can help get your kid more interested in socializing and participating in holiday customs like trimming the Christmas Tree, or lighting the Menorah.

 Invest in electronic devices

Purchase or rent electronic devices like I- Pads, Nintendo DS or DVD player that are useful in entertaining your kid with autism.
Make sure they work and are fully charged before your trip to prevent problems. It pays to invest in extra batteries and headphones as a backup, in the case of original one’s malfunction, get discharged, break or get lost somehow.

Relax before your trip

Stressed out parents inadvertently lead to stressed out kids that in turn are bound to experience meltdowns, so start your vacation a day early and make sure you relax.
Make the day before your travel your special day and engage in a fun activity like a visit to the spa, a hot bath or a date with friends.The night before you plans to leave put out everybody’s clothes, gadgets, and travel papers to ensure the trip starts hassle free.

 

Explain your challenges

Ask your friends and family to brainstorm along with you and come up with comfortable solutions to issues that might arise.

In the case of a kid with sensory issues wearing formal clothing might be difficult.You can compromise and let them wear the formalwear for the family portraits but bring an extra an extra set of clothes for him/her to change into after the photography session.
If your child can’t sit for extended periods of time at the dinner table, you can either leave earlier than the rest of the other diners or bring electronic gadgets to engage your child in the next room.Have your host prepare a quiet place your child can go to if they feel overwhelmed and don’t wish to socialize with others.
If your child has food allergies, you should let your hostess know ahead of time and discuss what your child can and cannot eat in detail.You can offer to bring an item or two for them if you can to make your child more comfortable.

 

Whatever arises, bear in mind no vacation is perfect, next year will be even better and that a couple of years down the road even the worst experiences can be laughed about around the family dinner table!


Why I finally ditched my fabric black suitcases

Why I finally ditched my fabric black suitcases color
One of the most important things I have learned by traveling as frequently as I do; is never to own a black suitcase ever again!

As someone who has spent endless hours around conveyor belts in different airports across multiple continents, I can testify that one of the most frustrating vacation pastimes can be trying to figure out which suitcase is yours from a plethora of seemingly identical others. Now, envision that same scenario, after a delayed red-eye,  flying on a multi-segment international flight with a cranky kid with autism, and how the already complex situation can become a full blown disaster in a matter of a New York minute.

My secret is buying the ugliest patterns or hideously-colored suitcases I can find and that most consumers would not consider purchasing. Moreover, I usually buy them in batches of six identical ones, four to travel with, and two extra ones that are my ‘spares’ (in case one breaks and my pattern is discontinued).I seek these ‘hidden hideous treasures’ in outlet stores like TJ Maxx or  Overstock.com.

 

The luggage I currently use is a hard shell version by Olympia with large hippie 60’s  flower pattern that sticks out like a sore thumb. The design is the one that you can quickly detect on the long windy conveyor belt and stop anyone from trying to walk away with it since it can be easily spotted across the airport arrivals room. As a result, everyone in my family can actively participate in retrieving our four identical pieces of luggage off the conveyor belt, thus enabling us to exit the airport faster.

I don’t especially believe in buying high ended expensive brands, as I’ve had expensive suitcases smashed, torn or destroyed just as frequently as their cheaper counterparts.Like I mentioned before I tend to chose quality over quantity and buy bags in batches of four or eight so I can easily replace one if and when it gets damaged.However, there are  two features I do check carefully before I purchase luggage: the weight of the suitcase since on domestic flights there are significant weight restrictions and  how well the  wheels  swivel since I have a shoulder injury .in my case I look for wheels that can rotate 360 degrees so the suitcase can be moved in any direction -forward, backward and even sideways if need be.
The new hard-shelled suitcases that have become increasingly popular do have several advantages over their fabric or leather competition.They are light, swivel and are almost unwelcoming to bedbugs (just remember to zip them shut in the hotel or cabin)—but they do have a higher chance of being bashed in and resembling a traumatized car bumper.

We have recently switched to the hard-shells swiveling suitcases but have yet to take them on long-haul flights with multiple stops. I guess we’ll just have to adopt a wait-and-see approach on how they weather the severe manhandling practiced in airports nowadays.

I think it couldn’t be worse than the time we flew back from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles and had all six fabric suitcases destroyed.

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